Kazakhstan to hold referendum on nuclear plant construction - president

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a state of the nation address

(This Sept.1 story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Almaty in paragraph 2)

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakhstan will hold a referendum to decide whether to build its first nuclear power plant, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Friday, adding that the date would be decided later.

The Central Asian nation's government has long discussed the idea, citing the need for new power generation capacity, and even identified a planned location for the facility in the southeastern Almaty region and mentioned Russia's Rosatom as a potential partner.

But some activists oppose the project because of safety concerns and Kazakhstan's history as home to the Soviet-operated Semei nuclear weapons testing ground.

"On the one hand, Kazakhstan, as the world's biggest uranium producer, should have its own nuclear power capacity," Tokayev said. "On the other hand, many citizens and some experts have concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants."

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Alex Richardson)